Thursday, March 10, 2011

Learning to like the trainer

Textbooks are the perfect size to support your front wheel.  Plus the sweat stains are a great way to intimidate other students.
This is the first time I've both tried to train in the off season and been in a cold environment.  I decided some time ago that once the temperature drops to a certain point I'd rather be bored than frozen, so I ride inside.  It's been below that point since December.  Thus, I've only actually ridden my bike outside twice since Elvis Cross on October 15.  I've been on the trainer five days a week, however, since early January.  With so much time inside, it really shocks the system to get out on the roads.  Outside there are countless small efforts, like accelerating from stop signs, that cause me to put a lot more force on the pedals than I'm used to.  But in my experience, those punchy efforts come back pretty easily, usually in just a few rides.

I've done a few things that have helped me break up the monotony on the trainer.  I've focused more on interval training, without building up much of a "base" of long, slow distance miles like I used to do.  I also use a power meter, so I can see where my numbers are compared to the previous week.  It only took me three weeks of training to surpass my numbers from last year...which says more about bad I was last year than how good I am this year.  Most important, however, has been streaming media content online.  The only truly boring part of riding inside is when you're between intervals or warming up.  The Daily Show and Colbert Report, which are free online, are my go-to distractions.  They're usually 20 minutes long or so, which is perfect for a warm up.

One redeeming attribute of the trainer is that it allows you to push yourself to the point of being completely cross-eyed and drooling on yourself without risking an accident on the roads.  To put out that sort of effort outside simply isn't safe.  I'm not necessarily into pushing it that hard this early, but it does give you something to break up your ride.

I'll end with two trainer movie recommendations: Hoop Dreams and More than a Game.  Both are documentaries about basketball.  They've got all the necessary parts to good sports movies, existential "why we do it" type of stuff, reliving the glory days, and over-invested parents and fans.  Both movies keep you on the edge of your seat.  Even though I don't follow pro basketball, or like it that much, it's nice to branch out to other sports and see that no matter how different the game, so much remains the same.

-Brian B